80% of women wear the wrong size bra! This number may seem surprising but consider this: have you ever been told what to look for when buying a bra? And how do you know if you fall into this percentage? A few signs that you need a different bra size are:
- The fabric is pulling up in the back
- Your breasts are spilling over the top
- The fabric connecting the bra’s cups (called “the cage”) isn’t laying flat against your skin
Another thing to think about when purchasing new bras is that the band should fit tightly when the clasp is on the last hook. This way, as your bras stretch from being worn you can keep the band tight by using the other hooks.
Finding a bra that truly fits you will ultimately be more comfortable, make your boobs look better, and can prevent back pain and sagging later in life. If this all sounds good to you, then consider doing a D-I-Y fitting or going for a professional fitting. Here we’ll lay out everything you need to know!
Finding the right fit
Bras come in all shapes, styles, and sizes, so how are you supposed to know which ones will fit you properly? To start with, there are two parts to a bra: chest size (band size) and cup size. You also have to consider how the shoulder straps fit (even though these are adjustable). You can either measure yourself at home or go to a store to get measured and fitted.
If you decide to try this at home, use a tape measure and maybe get your mom or a friend to help. Take off your shirt and lay the tape measure flat against your skin just under your breasts with your bra on. Round to the closest whole number and this will be your band size. To find your cup size, hold the tape measure tight around the fullest part of your bust with your bra off or with an unpadded bra on. Make sure to round to the closest whole number again. Now, subtract your band size measurement from this second measurement. The difference is your cup size:
- 0”-1/2” AA
- ½”-1” A
- 2” B
- 3” C
- 4” D
*Note: Bra fittings are not an exact science, and you may have to try on lots of bras before you find one that fits well, but at least now you’ll know what size you should be looking for.
Professional bra fittings: where to go and what to expect
You don’t have to measure yourself on your own to discover your bra size. Many department stores (including Macy’s and Nordstrom) and also Victoria’s Secret offer free, professional bra fittings. Buying bras to me was never exciting and I always thought I was getting the right size, but I was way off. After going to Nordstrom and getting fitted, I discovered when I was buying 32Bs I was really a 30DD! I was shocked. How could this be?
Anna*, a member of the Her Campus Team, shares: “I was a late bloomer and was completely flat-chested until last year, so it never occurred to me to actually have a bra fitting. I bought 32As, and just dealt with them being a little roomy. My mom finally took me to get fitted when I was a high school freshman, and they told me I was a 30B. That wasn’t very helpful, because very few stores actually carry 30Bs! I disregarded that advice, and continued wearing a 32A. I suspect I’m wearing the wrong size. I’m probably more like a 32B or a 34A now, but I haven’t gotten around to getting fitted again. I should probably do that soon!”
Miranda, a James Madison University student, says “I was told about the benefits of getting good bras but when I found out how expensive they were, it didn’t seem worth it. But I decided to get the free professional fitting [anyway] and buy my bras elsewhere, because at least I knew what size I was. I felt so smart for doing it this way, and the sales lady wasn’t pushy about me buying a bra right then and there which was nice, too.”
Going for a professional bra fitting isn’t a scary experience. You are given a private fitting room and a trained employee will enter with you. You are typically asked to remove your shirt so she (it will always be a woman) can measure your band size more accurately (you do not have to remove your bra for this). Then she will give you unpadded bras of different cup sizes to determine your cup size measurement. Once all of the measurements are complete, she will bring you a selection of bras in the right size. During the measuring process the sales associate doesn’t have to touch your boobs, but she may adjust the straps on a bra or brush your back when using the tape measure. They are typically aware of your personal space, even in this very up-close-and-personal fitting. You shouldn’t feel any pressure to buy a bra that day, and you may want to shop around some more, but at least you will know your correct bra size. This process will probably take about 20-30 minutes.
Katlan, a student at James Madison University, advises: “This experience is worth it! I suggest going to the store at a time that won’t be super busy, so that there is no rush to get in and out and you can get all the help you need. I also had to remind myself that the women who measure and help you do this all day and are used to seeing a lot of bras, and at the end of the day, we are all girls!”
I recruited my friends Anna and Elise to go to Nordstrom and get fitted to see if they were part of the eight out of 10 women wearing the wrong size bra. Afterward, they both told me they really thought they were wearing the right size, but as it turned out, they were wrong! Anna had been wearing a 38B and Elise, a 36B. In the end, Anna purchased two bras that were both size 36D, and Elise bought sizes 34D-34DD. After putting on the right size bra, Elise exclaimed from the fitting room, “My boobs feel fabulous! I’m so happy we did this.”
Their fairy-godmother Leslie, a professional bra fitter at Nordstrom, says she fits about 10 women a day. She told us that Nordstrom carries bras in sizes ranging from 30DD and 32A all the way up to 44 and 46J!
Keeping your breasts healthy
Finding the right size bra can help you look and feel confident and happy, but going through the process of a proper bra fitting can also lead to improved breast health. A well-fitted bra can prevent injury to breast tissue, lessen back pain (for women with larger boobs), and help with muscle tension and even headaches!
Dr. Stephen Baum, M.D. shared some advice about preventing shapeless boobs: “Saggy breasts have a lot to do with genetics. The ligaments in your breasts are what keep them perky when you are younger, but as women age these ligaments begin to tear. It is important to give your breasts support, but gravity will eventually win as you get older.”
One important way to keep your breasts happy and healthy is to give them plenty of support while working out.
The website Sportsdoctor.com explains: “A woman’s breasts are chiefly composed of hormone-sensitive mammary glands, fatty tissue and connective tissue. The pectoralis major and minor muscles lie underneath the breasts, but the breasts themselves have no true supporting ligaments or muscle tissue. Therefore, excessive motion during sporting activities may cause pain and aggravate sagging or stretch marks.”
While thebreastsite.com advises “Choosing a sports bra that fits you well, matches your activity level and offers you a soft feel with moisture-wicking (fabric that pulls sweat away from your body) performance is your goal. Generally, there are three defined impacts of activity: low impact (yoga), medium impact (tennis), high impact (running)...and, as an added benefit, increased fitness and activity will reduce your risk of breast cancer.”
A University of Southern California study shows, “women exercising for five or more hours per week experienced greater decrease in risk of developing invasive breast cancer compared to less active women.” This is because exercise lowers our levels of estradiol and estrone, two kinds of estrogen. So participating in activities such as swimming, jogging or aerobics can be extremely beneficial not only to your general health, but also to your breast health.
Even more bra info!
Sometimes you may feel like you don’t quite fit into any bras. There may be a solution for this; Playtex has a bra that comes in 1/2 sizes. The brand’s Thank Goodness It Fits line is the only bra collection featuring 1/2 sizes ranging from Nearly A to Nearly C in addition to traditional cup sizes.
Different sized ta-tas
Another common problem women face is that our two breasts aren’t the same size. How are you supposed to buy a bra that fits both? Fruit of the Loom recently created a line called Pick Your Perfect Pair™ . This innovative line allows you to buy two separate cups to create a bra that fits both of your “girls”. Their website states: “Lots of girls are slightly uneven (asymmetrical cup sizes), so Pick Your Perfect Pair™ bras have both front and back closures, enabling you to combine a ‘Just About’ size with an ‘Exactly’ size.”
A different solution is to adjust your straps at different settings. This way, your breasts will look like they are on the same level. Remember that you should be able to fit two fingers under your strap still, this way they won’t be too tight!
In the end, you can do-it-yourself or seek professional help with bra fittings, but finding bras that are the right size is an important venture. Investing a little time and money into this project will be worth the outcome. And you may be surprised by how much better you feel once you’re in the perfect bra!
Linda the Bra Lady, “Linda’s Bra School”
Ana Marie Cox, “If Your Bra Doesn’t Fit, Go Shopping”
“Finding the Right Bra”
“Exercise and Your Breasts”
“Exercise Reduces Breast Cancer Risk”
“Sizing a Bra”